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Angular 4 vs React. What to choose in 2017?

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Web application development is one of the most demanded fields in the industry of software development. When it comes down to it, not even the most experienced development team can adequately demonstrate their skills without suitable tools in place. So, how do you choose the right development environment?

To date, two well-known tools have proved to be the best: Angular and React. As for the former, a fourth version was recently released, characterized by a number of fundamental innovations that further simplify the process of writing code.

Read also: Swift vs Objective-C: What to Choose in 2017

Both Angular and React allow for the quick creation of high-performance, customized and multi-functional user interfaces for commercial software. In this article, we will discuss in more detail the differences between AngularJS 4 vs ReactJS.

Is comparing ReactJS with AngularJS 4 viable?

The Angular 4 framework, released after Angular 2, is an improved version of the latter, which is even more compact in size, more efficient, and includes better compilation mechanisms. In turn, React is not a full-fledged framework but rather a presentation level library with a JSX preprocessor compiler, probably one of the most extensive among the existing ones when it comes to the proposed functionality.

Although they are different in structure (Angular 4 is a development environment and React is a simple library), both of these tools were specifically designed for the development of web solutions and can be used for this purpose by both a small IT company and a large-scale corporation. What option do you choose when comparing ReactJS vs AngularJS 4? Let’s uncover the options.

The pros and cons of Angular 4

As already noted, Angular 4 is a relatively new and significantly modified version of the software. Many developers "scold" Angular 2 for compilation problems, complexity of some code structures and problematic studying. Angular 4 has undergone a number of changes; some of the problems inherent in Angular 2 still "please" us in the new version, and some have been successfully eliminated. Let us find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of Angular 4.

Pros:

  • Compatibility with TypeScript 2.1 and 2.2. Compatibility with new versions of TypeScript provides increased security in type casting, as well as increased speed of the ngc-Compiler.
  • Ahead-of-Time Compilation. In Angular 4, Ahead-of-Time Compilation (AOT) was introduced. What does it provide, in practice? Well, first of all, it offers faster rendering. The browser used to download the web application receives its precompiled version, thus, the visualization of the interface is carried out without delays otherwise caused by the compilation of the entire program. Secondly, the total number of asynchronous requests decreases. This is because of the possibility to exclude AJAX-requests for HTML templates and CSS files. Finally, AOT compilation guarantees an increased level of security. This guarantee arises from the peculiarities of the template and component compiling procedure at a stage preceding the transfer to the client, thereby minimizing the likelihood of malicious code injection.
  • Strict typing. Strict typing, inherent to TypeScript, requires less attention on arguments and variables, leading to a decreased chance for errors caused by lack of attention.
  • Accelerated compilation. Previous versions of Angular did not include an efficient compiler. Angular 4 comes with an integrated compiler that can report syntax errors directly to the IDE. If errors are detected in the templates, the compiler will issue a warning message immediately, rather than waiting until the build is finished.
  • Less code generated. Thanks to numerous optimizations, Angular 4 generates 25% less code, on average. In addition, since the compiler is no longer "attached" to the application, the total size is also reduced. Note also the innovation associated with animation. In this version of Angular, there is a separate @angular/core package for animation, which can be excluded from the assembly. Consequently, if the application does not use animation, its volume will be noticeably smaller.
  • MVVM architecture. This template for building applications allows to associate elements of the View with the properties and events of the Model. MVVM also separates application logic from its presentation, thus providing an opportunity to entrust the work with all three parts of the app - Model, View, and ViewModel - to individual development teams (for example, programmers and designers).
  • Two-way data binding. Angular 4, like its previous versions, supports two-way data binding. This means that developers can make any changes to the data and these changes will immediately spread to their views, and vice versa. Changes in views are immediately reflected in the basic user interface model. This is very convenient, because it reduces the need for manual binding of individual elements and, thereby, reduces the likelihood of careless errors in the code.
  • Good documentation. Really great and detailed documentation is one of the best features of Angular 4. Thus, even in spite of the complexity of this framework, novice developers can quickly study the basic skills of working with it.

Cons:

  • Difficult to master. As already noted above, regardless of the version, Angular is quite difficult. This is due to the need to use the relatively low-spread TypeScript language, as well as the purely theoretical knowledge of many beginning developers in the field of OOP practices. Because of this, mastering the advanced practices can be hard.
  • Problematic to use with any languages other than TypeScript. The only way to "make friends" with Angular 4 is to fully accept its strict terms and syntax. Angular 4 coders can only use the tools inherent to the ecosystem of this framework.
  • Incompatible with older browsers. One must not fail to mention the fact that Angular 4 does not support earlier versions of Internet Explorer (support starts only with version 8.0). This may impose some restrictions on the operation of web applications at low spec devices with older versions of browsers.

The pros and cons of ReactJS

React is a JavaScript library that has been repeatedly recognized as one of the best for startup implementation. The cost of projects created with React is rather moderate, which is appealing to customers. Considering the rather large number of specialists working with React in the outsource market, the price for their services is very competitive. Let's take a closer look at what React is so convenient for.

Pros:

  • Virtual DOM. The main advantage of React, in comparison with other similar tools, is virtual DOM - a lightweight copy of a complete DOM tree. Depending on the number of elements and scripts on the page, a full redrawing, required by the classical methods of DOM manipulation, can take quite a long time, which is unacceptable for applications that use 60 FPS animations, as well as those that should respond to user actions instantly. As for React, the principle of its operation is as follows. Changes caused by renderings are first introduced into Virtual DOM, which is displayed on the screen of the user device. After the time required to update the real DOM, the full redrawing of the latter takes place. This approach works many times faster because, in the intermediate stages of rendering (for example, when comparing two DOM trees), virtual DOM is used.
  • Orientation to the creation of custom user interfaces. As claimed by React creators, this library is one of the most versatile tools for JavaScript. Among other things, it offers developers a lot of tools for UI element creation, such as Material-UI, React-Bootstrap, React Toolbox, React Native Web and Blueprint.
  • Ease of learning. React is very easy to learn. In order to start working with React, you do not need to study manuals. All the developer needs, in addition to JavaScript knowledge, are some JSX skills and XML-like preprocessor instructive language. These skills, however, are not necessarily mandatory. Using JSX simply allows for the creation of a more elegant and readable code.
  • Code flexibility. React is characterized by an incredibly convenient integration with third-party instruments. React developers can choose for themselves the most rational mechanisms for the implementation of project functionality. This flexibility is augmented further by the fact that React is only a presentation-level library (in contrast to Angular, based on the MVVM template). The developers can focus solely on the use of callback functions and templates, creating a fully dynamic HTML application as a result. This approach gives programmers much more opportunities to show their talent in comparison to Angular 4 and its strict syntax.

Cons:

  • Slow rendering in complex apps. React is widely known for its virtual DOM technology; however, this component, which itself is designed to work quickly, may not have the proper effect even in medium-sized applications (not to mention very large ones). The procedure of redrawing in such applications can affect hundreds of components, so a complete update can be delayed for a time greater than the comfort threshold of 500ms. At the moment, the developers of React are seriously working to solve this problem. The new React core algorithm - Fiber - has already reached the beta testing stage. Initially designed to solve existing performance problems, RF enhances the responsiveness of the user interface and animation smoothness, while adding gesture processing. At the moment, there are no other tools that can optimize the degree of React-based complex application reactivity to user actions.
  • Lack of a unified approach. Despite the abundance of the functionality of the React library, it still is a presentation-level library and the development of a complete application must be complemented by additional frameworks such as Node.js, Redux, MobX, etc. Each of these has its own varying development approaches and resulting application architectures. This factor may not play in favor of React developers in situations where the deadline is close, or where it is necessary to find the best ways to solve current tasks in the shortest possible time.

Summary

As you can see, both frameworks have developed rapidly. Previous versions of Angular are often criticized for the irrational work of the compiler, thus, in Angular 4, this defect was eliminated. What about React? All of us languish in anticipation of Fiber’s release, designed to accelerate the reactivity of composite applications; therefore, it is impossible to give an unambiguous preference to any of these frameworks. Only by experiment can you experience the difference between ReactJS and AngularJS 4 and finally decide which development tool will suit you better for business.

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